2013-01-11

The Importance of Receiving

Love.
In our society, we talk a lot about giving. We hold it up as a positive character trait, a morally good thing to do, a socially responsible thing to do. We say that a relationship can't last unless both people are willing to give.

I'm not arguing with any of that, but we don't often talk about the necessary corollary of giving: receiving.

It probably has a lot to do with trust. Just as it requires trust to give something intentionally and honestly, it requires trust to unconditionally receive. You have to trust the intention of the person giving, because in order to really receive, you have to open yourself up to the gift and the giver. I feel like this is very important, as it ties closely into many aspects of a relationship, and in some ways, defines how we relate to other people.

Not surprisingly, we tend to not be very good at receiving. We get embarrassed by compliments and try to explain why they aren't true. We feel reluctant to accept gifts, or guilty if we don't also have one to give. When it comes to behavioral interaction rather than physical gifts, we switch so immediately into having to give that person something back, that we can't properly appreciate what they have done for/are doing for us. We feel guilty if we are ever receiving without giving.

Here is why I think this is important to talk about and work through. Receiving is as important a part of any relationship as giving, because in receiving intentionally and unconditionally, you are completing the act of giving.

Think about if your significant other compliments you on how beautiful you are. There are a couple of options. You can feel embarrassed and play it down or try to change the subject, in which case the compliment kind of falls flat. Or, you can unashamedly let yourself feel really good that this person who you obviously like very much thinks you are beautiful, let it hit you right where you can feel it. Imagine the joy your partner experiences when they see your eyes light up.

In a very similar way, if someone important to you decides to give you a gift, there is probably a good reason for it. Either they found something that really reminded them of you, and it made them happy and they wanted to share, or they wanted to make you happy by giving you something you would enjoy. There are also a couple of options here. You can feel guilty you didn't get them anything, and try to apologize or explain or find something to give them in return, and essentially completely forget about what they gave you. Alternately, you could simply focus on their act, and the thing they gave you, feel honored you are enough a part of someones life that they think of you in their daily life, and simply accept. Again, I feel like the enjoyment of the person giving is completed by an intentional and unconditional acceptance of the gift.

The same goes for someone doing something on your behalf - let's say just for example, you're applying to get into school somewhere, and they go out of their way to go to the school and make a good recommendation, to highlight why you would do well there, and you end up getting in. I think most peoples' initial reaction upon finding out what they did would be to feel somewhat guilty, and we would try to tell them they didn't need to go to all that trouble, to inconvenience themselves so much. But here's the thing: they intentionally inconvenienced themselves to give you a chance. Think how happy they will be when you celebrate together that you got in, that what they did for you made a difference in your life, and that you accept and appreciate their choice to help you.

Because sex is a way of relating to other people, I think this applies there as well. Sex is another instance of giving and receiving between people, and I think it is important to be able to separate the two, and to at least at times, strictly focus on giving, or strictly focus on receiving. It is important to be able to be in the moment, to be able to focus on intentionally and unconditionally giving or receiving without worrying about what might turn the other person on/off, what kind of scenarios you might want to play out or whatever. Just simply focus on that moment only and give/receive it with pleasure. Imagine the delight of your lover when they see the flush in your cheeks as they kiss just the right spot, or how excited they will be by seeing your obvious, unabashed enjoyment of what they are giving you. Just let go and let them in.

In all of these cases, receiving completes a circle of interaction between people. It serves an equal and complementary role to giving and it not only allows the person receiving to accept pleasure and happiness, but completes the pleasure and happiness of the one giving. Try it out sometime with someone you trust. When they give you something sincerely - a compliment, a gift, a kiss, whatever it is - accept it completely unreservedly, and see what happens.